A Secret View Into a Garden Writer’s Garden

Hi there Gardening Friends!

It’s getting to be that HOT time of year! But really, I’ve not seen it so MILD as it has been this year (2020) this late in the year! Some parts of our country had SNOW just a week ago, and here in Central Florida we had temperatures in the 60s in MAY! It’s really been a special Spring season this year. I hope you’ve been outside enjoying is as much as possible.

I don’t know about you but my garden is doing pretty well!

I thought I’d take this opportunity to show you pictures from my garden, what I’ve been up to, and some of the interesting thing’s I’ve seen and done. I haven’t even gotten around to planting everything I wanted to – Coronavirus stole most of my free time and energy this Spring trying to make sure we had our store open to serve you – but I’m enjoying what I do have, and stuff from Winter/Spring is not bolting as quickly because of the cooler temperatures.

I did plant a lot more flowers than usual this year, and the bees and butterflies are loving it. I planted a lot of wildflowers as well, and that patch hasn’t bloomed yet, I think it will have to get a bit hotter to make that really thrive. Some of the Florida Native wildflowers I planted never germinated, so will have to try again. Hey, even us garden writers have failures!!

Right now, my sweet potato slips are going very strong – great young vines developing right now that I’ll be attempting to train to climb my hog panel trellis (it’s like herding cats…really). Some of the ones that get a little unruly I clip and root to give to friends and neighbors. If you have lots of leaves already, you can use some of the really young tender leaves in recipes like you would spinach (great tip for you foodies out there!).

My sweet potato bed – the new slips are on the left, the ONE slip that was planted in January is the rest!

The vines that are already climbing the trellis are from a slip that I found growing on my counter and stuck in the ground in January. Yes, that’s right, all that is from ONE slip. Sweet potatoes LOVE Florida. Did you know that they are part of the same family as morning glories? That’s why they have those pretty purple flowers!

Speaking of potatoes, and flowers, my regular potatoes made flowers – I usually miss them when they bloom but I happened to get pictures this time. I have a row each of Red Pontiac, White Kennebec, and Yukon Gold, and the flowers bloomed on a couple of my Red Pontiac plants.

An elusive Potato flower, on my Red Pontiac potato plant!

Potatoes are part of the nightshade family, and you can see the relation to other nightshades like eggplant and tomatoes in the shape of the flowers and the stalks. It’s amazing how similar they all are structurally! I’m hoping to see the tomato-like “fruits” happen after the flowers are spent. If I see them I’ll be sure to snap a picture and share it on our social media page. No, you can’t eat those fruits from the potato flowers – they’re usually poisonous.

Pigeon peas, before they were stolen! I suspect tree rats!

Something has been stealing my pigeon peas…I got a good 2 rounds of harvest from my one pigeon pea “tree” and I get flowers on the tree, and haven’t seen any peas since. I do, however, see pods on the ground…so it’s likely squirrels. They’re robbing me of my pigeon peas and rice dinners…not happy about that. I did plant some more pigeon peas, so When those grow up maybe I can get some harvested before they all get eaten by the tree rats.

One of two remaining cabbages waiting to be harvested.

I still have carrots and a cabbage left from the winter…probably going to pull all of them out here pretty soon and make way for more cowpeas in that bed. I’ve been planting a lot of marigolds to help keep the bad pests away, and it definitely seemed to help my cabbages! Plus that bed is faltering in it’s nitrogen content – some of the plants that do grow are runts, so it’s time to plant beans so that the nitrogen can get fixed in the soil. I’ll probably have to get some Shell’s 3-3-3 organic into that bed to help the beans and cowpeas along a little bit. I try not to use too much fertilizer at all if I can help it through crop rotation, but sometimes you just have to help nature along a little bit!

Moringa tree sprouts – only 3 of 12 sprouted, I hope they make it!!

I also planted a few Moringa seeds that I picked up from a lovely couple at one of our Seed Swaps, but only 3 of the 12 germinated. I’m doing everything I can to hang on to those seedlings, I really want some Moringa trees! It’s a great superfood, and nearly everything on the tree is edible!

Last year about this time I wrote an article about Summer gardening with lots of great tips and advice in it, and it’s still relevant this year, so I wanted to link to it here so you could go back and read it. Please go check it out!

shells feed garden supply tampa florida guide to summer garden
Summer growing article I wrote last year

One of the most asked questions we get at the store is “What should I plant right now?” Normally if you’re in the store we hand you one of our garden guides, which has a handy-dandy planting chart on one side and advice for the gardening chores to do this month on the other, and send you on your way with whatever products you came in for that day. This article from last year goes a little deeper, and even has some other great links inside it. Do check it out when you get a chance.

I could keep writing about my garden – I love it so much – but I will stop there for now. My garden is my place to take out frustration (very satisfying pulling weeds, and hand-tilling the soil), get some sunshine and fresh air, and see beautiful things. All in my own back yard. I’m happiest when I’m out there, hanging out with the dogs, working on a project with my fiance, or just sitting and relaxing on the swing.

Petunia, Ping Pongs, Red Salvia

I hope you’ve made your own beautiful place. If you haven’t, what’s stopping you?

We’re here to help.

Until next time, keep growing!


8 responses to “A Secret View Into a Garden Writer’s Garden”

  1. elizabeth says:

    Delightful. Gardening is sure a way to stay anchored to life and nature and our co-operative place in the scheme of things. CoVId or Corona, Karuna, Crone, Earth Mother. Spring new goddess! We live together. Material and Spirit which is life. It is so lovely to experience that in our gardens.

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Hi Elizabeth! I agree with you! Touching the Earth grounds you (scientifically proven!) and beauty springs from the Earth! Thanks for commenting!

  2. MariaElena Marcet says:

    Thank you for sharing your garden. It’s lovely .
    I can relate how you feel about your garden because I feel the same about mine.
    I didn’t know that the seeds of the marigold are in the spent flower. I learned something today.
    I have pigeon peas in my yard but I pick them while they are still “young” and not dried up and this way the critters don’t get to them first .
    Stay safe!

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Thanks so much! I think gardens are magical…no matter what you grow…even just one potted plant has the same qualities as a huge garden. Yes, in many spent flowers there are seeds – take a look inside them once they’re all dried out and you’d be surprised how many different flowers have seeds that appear like this!
      I’m currently waiting on my Dianthus flowers to “die” so that I can crack them open and see if I can get seeds from them. If there are any, they’re going to be really tiny!! As for the pigeon peas, right now the squirrels are not even waiting until they get dried up…they eat them green! Ack! I need more pigeon pea plants (I only have one)…then maybe I’ll get enough for a meal. Little monsters.

  3. Adrienne Schmidt says:

    When visiting our Shells Store about 5 or 6 years ago I was given a cutting of Cuban oregano. It has grown into a beautiful plant and is an addition to my dried herbs. I have given cutting to a large group of friends and the response has been great. My plant has wintered over with just a little protection every winter so far. Thank you Shells!

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Hi Adrienne! That Cuban Oregano is definitely the gift that keeps on giving! So glad we could share that with you and that you paid it forward with your friends too! I think no herb garden is complete with out it! Thanks for telling your story – we appreciate you! Hope to see you in again soon!

  4. BETTY SHIPLEY says:

    Marissa. I love your garden, but wonder WHERE you keep the HERBS. I am sheltering them now (out of the sun) as some seem to wilt. Thanks for your direction.

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Hi Betty! In the picture of the Variegated Cuban Oregano you can see part of the structure I have them planted in. It’s called an Herb Tower. We don’t sell them at the store, unfortunately. The place I have the herb tower set up, between the house and a large oak tree, it gets about 4 hours of midday sun, say 10-2. I have the more delicate herbs, like marjoram and garlic chives, planted on the North side of the tower, because that area gets the least sun, or none at all (just bright indirect light). The Cuban Oregano LOVES the sun so I planted it on the south side of the tower. This Spring I planted full sun/part sun flowers on the top of the herb tower, and so far they like it there. My flat-leaf parsley is on the East side of the tower facing the house, and it’s been planted and growing in the same spot since Spring 2019. One of my Mint plants is facing South on that tower and has also been there since Spring 2019. They keep growing, so I don’t pull them. I hope that helps!

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